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Dozens Killed in Possible Syrian Chemical Attack; Van Slams into Crowd in Germany; Canada Bus Crash; National Guard Planners Meet on the U.S.-Mexican Border; Closure of Boracay Island; Trump's Trousers Dwarf the Competition. Aired 4-5a ET
Aired April 8, 2018 - 04:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Children, women, fathers, families, killed in an apparent chemical attack in Syria. Disturbing images of dozens dead raising the question, how does the world respond?
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A town in Canada devastated and in mourning. They are remembering those killed in a tragic crash when a tractor-trailer hit a bus car carrying a hockey team.
HOWELL (voice-over): And from paradise to cesspool. What happened to one popular tourist destination that prompted the country's president to order it closed.
ALLEN: These stories are ahead here. Welcome to our viewers. We are coming to you live. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell from CNN World Headquarters. NEWSROOM starts now.
ALLEN: We begin out of Syria where multiple Syrian activist groups are reporting a possible chemical attack. At least 48 dead and many others wounded. There are fears the death toll could go higher. Some of the video you're about to see is graphic and disturbing.
HOWELL: It happened in the rebel-held area of the city of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, outside of Damascus. Witnesses say helicopters dropped barrel bombs, unleashing a toxic gas on the area.
The Syrian government denies behind this incident. Again, we are warning you what you're about to see is graphic but we are going to spell out in detail what we see here because the details are part of evidence experts will use to examine what happened.
This image apparently shows the victims of the attack, women, children and men now lifeless on the floor, underground at a shelter where they tried to hide. Their faces ghostly white, some with eyes frozen in shock.
The foam you see on their lips and noses appears to be the telltale sign of a chemical attack. CNN cannot independently identify these videos taken by anti-government activists and doctors.
ALLEN: Another video shows doctors treating patients in crowded hospitals. Again, many of them children, many of them having trouble breathing, not only children, scores of adults also affected. This man you see foaming at the mouth. Doctors say they have seen others apparently paralyzed by what is likely some type of chemical agent.
You see these people being washing down in an effort to clear away the toxic residue.
HOWELL: Let's get the very latest from our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman live on Beirut.
Ben, this attack taking place in the rebel-held area, one of the last pockets of resistance really.
What have you learned more from your sources?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: George, we understand from activists and civil defense groups in Douma that at about 7:45 pm yesterday a Syrian government helicopter flew over the city and dropped a barrel bomb.
They believe as a result of the victims and the dead that they've seen that it was some sort of chemical weapon. The suggestion is was chlorine mixed with other chemical agents. One of civil defense groups is saying they have seen at least 70 killed from this attack. The precise numbers are very hard to come by.
The Syrian government is flatly denying there was any sort of chemical attack. It has been pointed out that there are many Syrian regime prisoners within Douma itself and that there is a lot of public pressure on the government to win their release live.
So we really don't know at this point. We do know is there hasn't been an offensive by the government in Eastern Ghouta just outside of Damascus since mid-February. It has left well over 1,000 people dead.
There had been a 10-day pause in fighting in Douma as some sort of negotiations were going on between the government and the main rebel group there known as Jaysh al-Islam or the Army of Islam. The negotiations broke down yesterday. We hear they have resumed.
However, this morning although it appears there is ongoing government bombardment on the area -- George.
HOWELL: These images of children, of mothers, of fathers, of families, apparently gassed to death, they are heartbreaking. Though this is far from the first time we've seen attacks like this, chemical attacks happening in Syria.
WEDEMAN: No, not at all, George. In fact, by some accounts there have been more than --
[04:05:00] WEDEMAN: -- 200 chemical attacks in Syria since the outbreak of the uprising there in 2011. The largest one took place on the 21st of August 2013, also in Eastern Ghouta, where it is believed sarin gas killed more than a thousand people.
Of course, last year on the 4th of April just south of Aleppo, more than 70 people were killed in what is believed also to have been a chemical attack. Following that 21st of August 2013, attack on the Eastern Ghouta, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was brought in under an agreement between the United States, Syria and the Russian government to remove or destroy all of Syria's chemical weapons.
Although it's not altogether clear that it was able to completely carry out its mission -- George.
HOWELL: Ben, thank you for the details and context. We'll stay in touch with you.
ALLEN: The U.S. State Department has addressed this, saying it has seen what it calls disturbing reports of the attack and is continually assessing the situation.
HOWELL: In a statement it also said, "These reports, if confirmed, are horrifying and demand an immediate response the international community. The Assad regime and its backers must be held accountable and any further attacks prevented immediately.
"Russia with its unwavering support for the regime ultimately bears responsibility for these brutal attacks targeting of countless civilians and suffocation of Syria's most vulnerable communities with chemical weapons."
ALLEN: Let's talk more about this now with CNN military analyst Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling. He joins us via Skype from Orlando, Florida.
General, thank you for talking with us.
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Pleasure to be with you.
ALLEN: This is not the first chemical attack we have seen in Syria. Reportedly it follows rebels firing against the capital after being bombed by the government regime.
What do you make of the report you're hearing?
HERTLING: After watching this all week long this has been a continuation bombardment of the town of Douma. And it seems to follow the pattern that the Syrian government has used against strongholds of those they consider their enemy. There has been underreported about 200 chemical attacks in Syria between the years of 2012-2018.
So this is just another strike. It's certainly a large one. And it certainly comes at a time that seems to be suspicious because it's been one year to the day since the Tomahawk attack on the Syrian airbase after they launched their last big chemical attack.
ALLEN: The Tomahawk attack being from the U.S. as a result of that?
ALLEN: So what might the U.S. response be to this?
HERTLING: That's the great question, what will happen?
Because many would say this might be both the Russian and the Syrian regime as well as the Iranian Hezbollah, saying they are confused by a somewhat ambiguous policy. The U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Defense have been saying one thing. As we all know, President Trump has been saying another thing about getting out of Syria as fast as possible.
And even with the action that was conducted a year ago today, by President Trump against Syria, now the question is, after he drew that red line in the sand, is this another one, another time that a president will say they will do one thing and not follow up on those actions?
ALLEN: If the U.S. doesn't, what then?
While you were talking, we are looking at video of children being doused by a water hose because they have just been hit with chemical weapons. It's highly disturbing. And you talk about Russia that probably has something to do with this.
But the bottom line is, is this part of the last-ditch effort by this regime to win this war?
HERTLING: I think they will continue to do what they have to do to put down this civil war and have the Assad regime come out on top. But as we get so upset about the use of chemical weapons, which is in violation of several land warfare decrees as well as the Geneva Convention, as well as some of the U.N. charters, this has just been extreme genocide over the last several years in this civil war.
The Syrian government has not differentiated between combatants and non-combatants, especially citizens, small children and women that have been interspersed with some combatants. The town of Douma, which was struck today, has certainly been known by the Syrian government to be a stronghold for the Army of Islam, Jaysh al-Islam.
And they have continued to attack it and they've moved citizens around to destroy cities.
HERTLING: All of this is part of what one might consider war crimes across the board.
Over several hundred thousand have been killed and millions have been displaced and the Syrian government, as long as they have supported by the Russians and the Iranians, will continue to do this until they tamp out and tamp down every opposition against them.
ALLEN: It's interesting you brought up war crimes because that was my next question, when and if this regime, Mr. Assad prevails about whether he will face war crimes internationally.
He has prevailed through seven years of war, continuing his lifestyle through all of this. So one wonders if he is worried or concerned in the face of possible international condemnation that might have teeth at some point.
HERTLING: Well, he has been condemned by several international bodies already. The problem is that sometimes war criminals are not prosecuted unless they're on the losing side.
And it seems with the backing by the Russian regime and the Iranian regime of Mr. Assad, he may not be on the losing side. Over the last several years he has been bucked up by help from his partners. And especially a couple of years ago, there was a time when many thought he was going to be disposed (sic).
But in fact, he was able to overcome based on the help from the Russians.
So I think what we won't see, he may be charged by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But I doubt as long as he is in power and supported by other dictatorial regimes that he'll be brought to trial.
ALLEN: Meantime, we'll wait and see what could be the response to this latest report of chemical attacks on his citizens. General Mark Hertling, thanks so much. We appreciate your analysis.
HERTLING: Thank you, Natalie.
HOWELL: Now to Germany. Authorities there looking for clues to what motivated a deadly attack Saturday in a quiet university town.
ALLEN: Two people died and 20 others were hurt when a man rammed a van into a crowd as people were enjoying the spring day. Police say the suspect, a German citizen, shot and killed himself.
HOWELL: According to reports in German media, he was known to have psychological issues but no apparent link to radical Islam.
Following this story, our Erin McLaughlin is live in Muenster, Germany.
Erin, thanks for being with us.
So what more have you learned about the suspect?
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, really at the center of this investigation is the motive of the suspect. Authorities have yet to establish the motive. It remains a mystery. They say they have identified him although they're not publicly naming him as a 48-year- old German citizen. Actually lived not far from here. He's from the local area. German media reports that he had a history of mental illness.
So at this point authorities publicly not confirming that information. In terms of the focus of the investigation, was very much focused last night on the vehicle. A van used to carry out the attack. They have since removed it from the scene. Initially they were concerned about the possibility of explosives inside that van because they saw some wires hanging out of it although it seems that they have found no explosives inside the van.
Although inside the they say they have found a broken gun as well as the gun he used to shoot and kill himself following the attack. They also found firecrackers.
Another area focused for investigation is his apartment which is not far from here. Inside the apartment they say they found a fake AK-47 as well as more firecrackers. Nothing at this point to suggest any sort of jihadist links, nothing to suggest terrorism.
We are expecting a press conference shortly with more information about this attack. But again, motive very much remains a mystery here -- George.
HOWELL: Erin, is there anything to suggest the attacker had accomplices in this?
Or was this the one person, a lone person responsible?
MCLAUGHLIN: At this point authorities say they have ruled at the possibility of accomplices initially following the attack. Eyewitnesses say they saw multiple people getting out of the van. But at this point authorities say they had been able to rule that out.
This is a cathedral city of some 300,000 people, a university town, very much rattled by the events of yesterday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying that she was deeply shaken by what happened. That very much reflects the sentiment here in this university town.
Earlier this morning we saw mourners arrive at the restaurant where the attack took place. They were laying flowers and hugging. Authorities say that not only is the priority at this point the investigation but also --
MCLAUGHLIN: -- offering support to the families and friends of the victims.
HOWELL: CNN international correspondent, Erin McLaughlin, live in Muenster, Germany, thank you for the reporting. We'll stay in touch.
ALLEN: It has been called a nightmare come true in Canada. Coming up, a bus crash kills many members of a beloved hockey team.
HOWELL: Plus a high-rise fire in New York's Trump Tower. What President Trump is saying about the fire. Stay with us.
ALLEN: Hockey is a way of life in Canada. And the deadly crash of a hockey team's bus is being called an unprecedented national tragedy.
HOWELL: At least 15 people are now confirmed dead from the collision, and 14 more injured. CNN's Polo Sandoval has more on this disaster.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Authorities in Canada's Saskatchewan province still investigating this deadly collision involving a junior hockey team. Authorities say the bus that was transporting the team by the name of the Humboldt Broncos collided with a tractor-trailer rig on Friday. Investigators have not said exactly who is among the survivors.
This picture --
SANDOVAL: -- showing three of them. It was sent by a supporter of the team showing three men holding each other's hands. This is a very powerful picture. It's already been shared by several officials, including Saskatchewan's premier and also on social media under the term, "United in grief."
This has certainly sent shock waves throughout Canada here, the prime minister tweeting, expressing his support for the victims and their families. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, tweeting, quote, "I cannot imagine what these parents are going through and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy in the Humboldt community and beyond."
Of course the main question right now is what went wrong that day. This team was actually headed to one of their playoff games when they collided with this tractor-trailer rig. So investigators now on the case, trying to find out exactly what went wrong -- Polo Sandoval, CNN, New York.
HOWELL: Polo, thank you.
Also in New York, one person is dead after a fire at Trump Tower on Saturday. The fire department said at least six firefighters also injured in that fire. The fire was contained to the 50th floor.
The U.S. president has a penthouse in the tower and it's the headquarters of the Trump Organization. The president and his family were not in the building during the fire but the president tweeted this. He praised the efforts of firefighters and said Trump Tower was a, quote, "well-built building."
President Trump is again complaining about the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI, which are led by people he appointed.
HOWELL: This time he is accusing the agencies of dragging their feet on a congressional investigation. We get more now from CNN's Abby Phillip.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Trump continues to attack his own Department of Justice and FBI on Twitter, this time attacking them for failing to turn over documents that had been (INAUDIBLE) by the House Judiciary Committee, which is conducting an investigation into alleged FBI surveillance abuses and also the department's handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail server investigation.
President Trump said in two tweets that he sent out over the weekend that what does the Department of Justice and the FBI have to hide?
Why aren't they giving the strongly request documents unredacted to the House Judiciary Committee?
Stalling but for what reason? Not looking good.
The president's anger as the FBI continues after months and months. And it's also not just about the DOJ but also about the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, who the president has continued to be frustrated with after he recused himself from the Russia probe last year.
The president has attacked Sessions in personal term and also attacked the intelligence community in general over a probe into the Russian interference that he believes is a witch hunt. Now the Department of Justice has failed to meet some of these deadlines set by the Judiciary Committee to turn over documents.
But they've said that they are applying more and more people to turn over these documents in a timely fashion. The DOJ has also said that they will allow Republicans and Democrats to view the FISA application that authorized surveillance into Carter Page.
But the president's anger apparently has not waned might not ever wane as long as Jeff Sessions remains in his post -- Abby Phillip, CNN, White House.
HOWELL: Abby, thank you.
Now to the former president of Brazil. Luis Lula da Silva behind bars. This video you see of him being escorted to prison.
ALLEN: The leftist leader turned himself in Saturday to serve a 12- year sentence for corruption. He was considered a front-runner in Brazil's upcoming election in October. Stefano Pozzebon filed this report from Venezuela for us.
STEFANO POZZEBON, JOURNALIST: Brazil former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is in police custody after a two-day showdown in Sao Paulo. Lula had to walk himself outside the gates of the stoneworkers' union headquarters after he had been holed up since Friday after ardent supporters blocked his car from leaving.
Earlier on Saturday the former president laid a border of flight to the southern city of Curitiba (ph), where he was due to turn himself in to federal police on Friday afternoon. But this may not be the very end before the leftist politician may now try to influence the election from behind bars.
By passing his support to another candidate -- for CNN. Stefano Pozzebon, Caracas.
ALLEN: Hungary's right wing prime minister Viktor Orban is set to secure his fourth term in office. And critics say the country's democracy is on the line. Mr. Orban voted earlier in his country's parliamentary election.
HOWELL: The prime minister has tried to build what he calls an illiberal democracy. His ruling coalition has passed laws targeting independent media and his party has campaigned heavily against immigrants and the European Union.
ALLEN: The horrors of war unleashed, the people of Syria dealing with what is apparently another chemical weapons attack. We'll have the latest for you --
ALLEN: -- ahead here.
HOWELL: Plus planning is under way for the National Guard's deployment, what these troops will be doing along the U.S.-Mexico border. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. Stay with us.
ALLEN: Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell with the headlines.
ALLEN: Our top story now. A possible chemical weapons attack in Syria and we warn you the video is quite disturbing.
HOWELL: A number of activists groups say helicopters dropped barrel bombs on the town of Douma, which then unleashed a toxic gas on people there. At least 48 people are reportedly killed. Syria says it was not --
HOWELL: -- behind the attack.
ALLEN: It's what they say. This video shows victims being washed down in an effort to clear away the toxic residue. Other video we've seen shows children and adults even babies foaming at the mouth, often a deadly sign of a chemical attack, others convulsing, appearing paralyzed.
HOWELL: Let's talk about this. Let's bring in Steven Erlanger. Steven is the chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe with "The New York Times," live in Brussels, Belgium.
Thank you for being with us. These images are difficult to watch but important to look at them because they really show the detail these experts will look at to determine what happened.
What's your view from what you have seen here?
Does this change the dynamic in any way?
STEVEN ERLANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, there are a couple of things going on, George. One, the video's important because it proves that something happened, right?
First of all because Syria denies doing anything and Russia will deny doing anything. Ad I'm expecting the answer to come back that somehow the opposition to Assad did it to themselves. That's what usually happens.
But it will put great pressure on President Trump who about a year ago sent 59 missiles into Syria in response to a chemical weapons use. He thought it was a big deterrent. He was proud that it was a bigger response than President Obama did when Obama stood down from using missiles, when Syria used chemical weapons in the past.
And it will also put great pressure on the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who has also said that the use of chemical weapons is a red line. The French have been very strong in trying to defend the chemical weapons convention and they've been very strong in supporting Britain, for example, in the poisoning of the former Russian spy with the use of nerve gas.
So it will be very interesting to see. One expects a certain amount of diplomatic maneuvering in the U.N. Security Council. But the pressure on Mr. Trump and Mr. Macron to act militarily I think will be quite strong.
HOWELL: Let's talk about that. Again, it was just about a week ago the U.S. president was saying it's time to get out of Syria. But just a few days ago we heard from the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, talking about Syria. Let's listen to what she had to say. We can talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: It's a sad fact, just a few years ago a single chemical weapons attack would have united us in shock and anger. It would have been enough for us to take immediate action.
Now we have a regime that uses chemical weapons practically every other week. Our lack of action has consequences. When we let one regime off the hook, others take notice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: Steven, these mixed messages, where does it leave the Syrian government?
Is that government emboldened by what they are hearing?
ERLANGER: Well, I think they are. They also see an end game in Eastern Ghouta. There is a very strong opposition force in Eastern Ghouta they are trying to defeat. And this is one way I suspect they think they can do it.
They normally use this kind of powerful chemical weapon as opposed to merely chlorine gas, which is horrible enough, only in areas where there's a lot of opposition and civilians, many of them, had already left.
So there's a kind of -- I mean it's disgusting, a kind of military logic for them to brave the criticism now because they see the end game coming. They know Russia will protect them in the U.N. Security Council. Russia will use its veto.
And they don't expect even a military response from Washington or anyone else to be that severe. Now it is true Mr. Trump has said he's tired of Syria. He wants to get out. He's ordered his people to find a way out in the next six months rather than tomorrow.
But that is also a signal to the Syrian government. That may have contributed to their willingness to use chemical weapons now.
HOWELL: Steven Erlanger, thank you for your time and perspective today.
ERLANGER: Thanks, George.
ALLEN: President Trump is touting his efforts the secure the U.S. border with Mexico. On Saturday he tweeted this, "We are sealing up our southern border, the people of our great country want safety and security." HOWELL: Earlier he directed the National Guard to send troops to the border. Some planners are already in various sectors in Texas with more soldiers on the way. Up to 4,000 have been authorized to go. CNN's Kaylee Hartung has more now from the Texas border.
KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Officials here in Texas say the goal is to have at least 250 National Guard troops in place by the end of the weekend. These planning troops being brought to the border to meet with Department of Homeland Security officials as well as Custom and Border Patrol agents to determine the specific resources, respective areas of the border may need.
Meanwhile, generals are meeting in Austin, the Texas state capital, to coordinate logistics and troop movements. These 250 troops on the move over the course of the weekend, those are in addition to 100 troops that the governor of Texas had already ordered to be in place along the Texas-Mexico border.
Beyond the state of Texas, 150 National Guard troops also are being deployed to Arizona over the course of the next week. That brings us to 500 troops we know who will be on the U.S.-Mexico border before we're aware of plans for California or New Mexico.
Beyond the numbers the next question is, what will they be doing when they're down here?
I mentioned the focus now on planning. But with further deployments, we anticipate these troops being in supporting roles, like training, construction, intelligence gathering and surveillance by air with the help of helicopters or with cameras and other technology along the border.
These troops we should also mention will only be armed in specific situations where they feel self-defense could be necessary. With this supporting role being played by National Guard troops, the idea is that Customs and Border Patrol will be more visible, more flexible and they will be able to make any immigration arrests that may need to be made -- Kaylee Hartung, CNN, Hidalgo, Texas.
ALLEN: This move to beef up security on the border comes as a caravan of Central Americans traveled north through Mexico. They left everything behind, even children, to try and find a more prosperous and safe life.
HOWELL: That group now in Puebla. That's about a two-hour drive from Mexico City. CNN's Leyla Santiago is there and talked to these families as they plan their next moves.
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Valentina has become quite popular. She is the reason her mother says they are even here. For them, this is about the search for a better life.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SANTIAGO: We are human beings, she tells me. Adding, if Jesus had to migrate, why shouldn't we?
Most of the people here didn't know each other two weeks ago, but it is part of an organized caravan, an annual pilgrimage that united to head north, leaving behind violence and poverty in Central America, they tell us. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SANTIAGO: (INAUDIBLE) says her sister and uncle were both killed in Honduras. She doesn't want to be next. And yet (INAUDIBLE) can relate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SANTIAGO: When her son's life was threatened, she says they fled immediately. Both women hope to reach the U.S./Mexico border so they can seek asylum. They say gangs in Honduras controlled where they lived and poverty makes it tough to find a way out.
The caravan has become the target of President Trump's tweets, calling them a dangerous caravan. While Trump may not understand, they tell me, they find support in each other. They become a community, a village on wheels.
Children playing. Medical teams caring for the ill. Volunteers serving food at dinner. Even the occasional soccer game.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SANTIAGO: According to organizers, the group started with more than 1,000 people.
People of the caravan are lining up to be counted by organizers. And then, they all have a full day worth of workshops where they will meet with immigrant advocates, as well as legal aid, while they make up their mind on what to do next.
Headcount this weekend, about 500. Some will stay in Mexico. Others, will break off on their own. As it has in previous years, the group becomes smaller as it heads north. Organizers believe only about half of them will make it to the U.S.-Mexico border. These women are determined to be among those making it to the United States of America -- Leyla Santiago, CNN, Puebla, Mexico.
HOWELL: Leyla, thank you so much for the reporting.
Still ahead, from paradise to wasteland. Next we'll take you to the tourist hot spot in the Philippines where a massive cleanup is affecting both visitors and businesses.
ALLEN: Welcome back.
An island in the Philippines known as a tourist hot spot is temporarily closing for a massive cleanup. The government says Boracay Island has become a cesspool with wastewater and sewage draining into the sea.
Our Alexandra Field went to check it out. She is live for us on Boracay Island.
And Alexandra, it certainly doesn't sound like paradise there.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No. It doesn't sound at all like the vacation of your dreams. There are people behind me in the water. It's clear blue where we're standing, enjoying these white sand beaches. That's because the businesses on this stretch of beach say they are not affected by the problems that affect other parts of the island.
Still you've got federal government officials, the president himself saying there's no answer here except to shut down the entire island to all visitors for some six months. This announcement has left people on this island scrambling. They say they don't know what they're going to do.
This is one of the most heavily visited islands in the Philippines. It got 2 million tourists in 2017 alone. So a six-month shutdown they say could be dramatic for their bottom line.
The problem is also dramatic. We are hearing about an overabundance of trash that isn't even being collected enough and problems with waste management, sewage leaking into the clear blue waters that this island is known for.
We were able on one of those beaches to see what this problem has come from. Big drainage pipes running along the shores. Locals tell us there have been illegal hook ups to some of that storm draining system because of overcrowding on the island. They say for years now they have been seeing raw sewage flow into the open water.
They say they want the government to fix the problem, which is the plan now, but they wanted to see the clean up done phase by phase. They didn't want to see an all-out ban that would affect their bottom line.
This is an island that isn't just popular among tourists; it is a global --
[04:45:00] FIELD: -- wedding destination. That means there are brides and grooms all over the world right now, we are being told, with little notice, find another plan. We spoke to one of the wedding planners who is breaking the news. Here's what she told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course it's hard for us. It's very hard because emotionally the stress not only for us but of course for them. I'm thinking about them. They planned this a year and a half ago. And all of a sudden, the wedding of their dreams can't happen anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FIELD: These businesses tell us it's not just about being able to serve their customers. It isn't just about turning away these tourists. It's also about being able to continue to support their employees and keep those businesses open for when the island opens back up in six months.
They're hopeful that the association of the word "cesspool" with the island Boracay -- those are the words that were used by the president -- won't do damage to the reputation of this place permanently.
The government has said that they could open up the island in fewer than six months if the cleanup is done by that time. People are hopeful that it will happen but they say months of a closure could do irreversible damage at this point -- Natalie.
ALLEN: So this is not just an environmental disaster. It could also be an economic one for this island. They apparently saw this coming. The question is, will people come back here once it's cleaned up?
Will they have confidence that it is cleaned up?
Any word from the government on what they will do to make sure that happens?
FIELD: Federal officials say they understand tourist dollars are critical. They say that's why they're cleaning the place up but it should be better and cleaner than ever and that the tourists will come back.
Business owners naturally are slightly more doubtful about that. They're also worried about their employees coming back because foreign workers will have to leave during this cleanup period. They will also be laying workers off. They say they don't know if their employees will return in six months. These people could leave permanently and find other jobs.
The government has said they've set up a fund that will help affected workers. But again, the employers on this island are saying this is all happening very quickly. They feel they are not getting the information they need as quickly as they need it and they say they haven't been able to give their employees these critical assurances. As for the cleanup itself, the government does need people right here
to do that work. They say they will need about 10,000 people to do all the work that needs to be done, not just cleaning up but also repairing and expanding the wastewater systems here on the island. They said they could actually be tapping some of the local employees around here to do some of these cleanup jobs.
So a lot of questions for the people who will remain on this island. What we know for sure is that people who don't live here year-round, will have to leave by the end of the month and more people will not be coming back, at least not anytime soon.
ALLEN: So sad that all of this could have been avoided if it weren't for that negligence with the drainage there. So sad. Alexandra Field for us, thank you, Alexandra.
HOWELL: The Pineapple Express is on track to deliver a load of rain to the U.S. West Coast.
ALLEN: Coming up here, presidential pants.
ALLEN: Our Jeanne Moos reports it's not who wears the pants, it's how they wear them -- George.
HOWELL: I thought the tight fit was in.
HOWELL: All right. Whatever.
HOWELL: OK, put policy questions aside, put the Russia investigation aside. The focus here is the president's wardrobe that's grabbed the attention of bloggers and magazines, not the long ties that he wears, OK, but the fully cut trousers, the big trousers.
ALLEN: He's not exactly a fashion icon like his wife, is he?
ALLEN: Jeanne Moos has our story.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would have taken about two minutes.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's got a big personality. He's got big hair. And now he's got big pants?
"Vanity Fair" asked the pressing question --
MOOS (voice-over): -- what is going on with Trump's pant legs?
On a couple of recent occasions the president has been photographed with what the magazine calls enormous pant legs, "the circumference of a healthy toddler's head -- is something changing?"
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Height 75 inches, weight 239 pounds.
MOOS: Is the president gaining weight or losing height or just in need of a tailor?
In Trump's "Think Like a Billionaire" he wrote, "I wear Brioni suits which I buy off the rack."
Remember the last (INAUDIBLE) over presidential pants?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your husband wore these -- that's a picture of (INAUDIBLE).
MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: The mom jeans?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Sorry --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But if you're not a mom then you're --
OBAMA: Dad jeans.
MOOS: Dad jeans, mom jeans -- whatever you call them, they're not President Trump's problem.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has incredibly good genes and it's just the way God made him.
MOOS: But there's one guy with a leg up on President Trump -- forget nuclear button size -- look at these babies.
One Twitter user launched the dear leader with the caption "Final inflation test for the new Kim Jong balloon. His massive pant legs have inspired a British journalist to create #KimJongUnTrouserWatch. Another commenter likened his limbs to a pair of those inflatable wind dancers.
Forget the arms race, we're talking a legs race -- one President Trump would probably rather lose. At least when the Politi-fact Pants on Fire Meter lights up over the president's latest untruth -- he'll have more pants to burn.
And if it's money you want to burn, his jogging pants will set you back $50 -- Jeanne Moos, CNN -- New York.
All around disturbing.
OK. We have another hour of news ahead here.
Stay with us. We are right back after this break.